A head-to-toe makeover – along with a clever extension – transformed a tired but cherished house into a modern home.
WORDS Jason Burgess PHOTOGRAPHY Caroline Ducobu
Heather and Paul O’Brien made their first tentative steps towards revamping their cherished home four years ago. Since engaging Refresh, their project has been fast-tracked and after just three months their rebuild is almost complete.
Even with many finishing touches yet to go, exterior paint to apply and en-suite mosaics still in transit from Italy, the O’Briens are overjoyed with their remodelling results thus far. “This is our vision, every step of it,” says Heather.
Initially, the O’Briens believed renovating would be too expensive. But after a period of looking at nearby open homes, they realised that the best bang for their buck would be in modernising. Besides they say, “We really love this place. We brought our kids into the world here and now we really want to see the house grow up with them.”
Built-in 1974, the breezeblock Spanish hacienda styled home opens onto its own courtyard and was replete with an adobe-plaster finish and a plethora of arches inside and out. The O’Briens’ initial brief was to contemporise by cleaning up the lines throughout to make better use of the space. Topping their wish list though was an extra room.
Originally they had concept drawings to add another story but the neighbours didn’t come to the party on height to boundary restrictions. “Then we engaged Allan MacIntosh at Buildology,” says Heather. “He came up with the idea of extending out the back, which we hadn’t thought of. It was actually more affordable.
Just having Project Managers is worth your sanity alone
Beginning the house renovation
“Allan walked us through every step of the renovation and then put us in touch with Refresh Renovations. They believe in collaborative relationships and were always open to our ideas and suggestions. We needed to trust the experts to guide us through this.”
Even though the new plans for a master bedroom and en-suite followed the existing roofline, there was just one hurdle to get over: the neighbours. The O’Briens were knocked back again and so it was decided that the new room would step down to follow the contour of the sloping site.
Says Refresh Project Manager: “Due to the soil condition Geotech reports required piles to be sunk 2.2 metres into the ground and earth moved to establish a building platform.” A new retaining wall was built to accommodate 30 cubic metres of excavated earth, creating a now rolling lawn straight off a new sundeck.
The result is a king-size room with a giant Nebulite sliding door opening to the birdcall and the deck. “With a native bush outlook and a stream at the bottom of the garden it’s a real retreat,” Refresh reckons.
The cavity slider to the en-suite was colour matched to the Clearlite Fontana charred oak wall-hung vanity. A VCBC Sontoso Natural Stone countertop basin will contrast against the proposed stone grey wall tiles and mosaics in the step-down shower box. An existing HRV ventilation system was lengthened to service the extension.
Opening up the tangle of tight interior spaces, arching portals and an overabundance of internal doors in the existing structure meant re-engineering the plans to replace load-bearing walls with steel bearers to take the weight of the concrete tile roof.
Exposed rafters running across the high vaulted ceiling through to the outside eaves meant there was no insulation in the lounge ceiling. Refresh Renovations Project Manager suggested packing the gaps between rafters with batts and then gibbing to create a new ceiling line. A Resene Half Black White paint was chosen for the ceilings and Resene Cararra for the walls to create a harmonious flow throughout.
The new home design
Outside, a new soffit matches the ceiling line. The arches around the L-shaped patio were removed. As existing posts were found to be hollow, new steel posts were installed to support steel beams beneath the eaves. They were coated with Hardytech and plastered to blend in with the existing concrete and finished in Spanish White.
In the lounge, a six-metre long steel lintel support was fitted above three oversized double glazed Nebulite Euro stackers to maximise the indoor-outdoor flow. Effectively a whole wall of glass now opens onto the northwest facing courtyard, with views over the harbour. Aluminium joinery was introduced throughout the rest of the home, including ranch sliders in both the children’s rooms, replacing existing windows. A slick Rinnai Arriva gas fireplace replaces a tired woodburner.
The warm, airy lounge now opens into an expansive kitchen with a substantial black granite topped centre island and breakfast bar. Under counter there are ample drawers, a generous utility cupboard and a brushed steel Miele dishwasher. A Methven Spring pull-down sink mixer commands the industrial sized Heritage Quadra 720 sink. “With this beautiful island,” says Paul, “we wanted to make a statement with the kitchen tap.”
Paul is the resident chef and his dream appliance – a Smeg Anthracite 90-centimetre freestanding electric cooker with a six-burner gas hobb – was bought with the proceeds from the Trade Me sale of their old kitchen. The Klassic Kitchens fit out continues with a black granite food prep benchtop with myriad storage options including a corner cupboard turnstile, appliance garage, a portal for a Samsung brushed steel double door fridge with icemaker and generous pantry spaces.
On a facing wall, floor to ceiling crockery storage and enclosed display shelves with frosted glass doors complete the cabinetry. The handle-less, soft close drawers and cupboards throughout are a mark of Heather’s self-described minimalism. She admits: “I was sick of food and muck getting caught in the handles.” The renovation’s clean lines are completed with the new Gainsborough brushed stainless door handles and hinges.
A Heatwell underfloor heating system will warm the kitchen tiles. The planned under island glass kickboard will feature paua colours and an as yet un-designed family drawn motif. A milky white splashback will match the existing opaque sliding doors of the laundry closet adjacent to the kitchen.
A bar light with four LED spots illuminates the prep bench with nightlights built into all the display cupboards. Recessed halogen ceiling downlights spread throughout the whole house.
In the lounge an entertainment hub removes all cables and cords from sight and controls all media from one point. An HDMI extender links back to the bedroom controls and along with Sky, Blu-Ray DVD, and a surround sound AV system there is also potential for a future media centre for the kids PCs.
The dining area at the rear of the kitchen will be the ‘kidzone’, demarcated by beanbags, a wall mounted flatscreen TV and games consoles. “They can go out there and do their thing and we can be in the lounge,” says Heather. “When they grow we will move our table back into that area, it‘s a versatile corner and that’s what we like. We have invested in this place because we have no plans to leave it in a long, long time.”
Reflecting back on the renovation with Heather and Paul O’Brien
What was the best money you spent?
“Engaging Refresh. Just having Project Managers is worth your sanity alone. Our valuer came by recently and he said the workmanship is spot-on. Refresh has gone out of their way to ensure we are back in the house by the due date.”
What are your favourite features?
Heather: “The space, the inbuilt wardrobes and having a really modern house that is affordable to both of us.”
Paul: “The lounge and kitchen are amazing, so vastly different.”
The most stressful moment:
“After construction began, there was a string of findings where we had to get engineers’ reports, then fix the roof and hire safety equipment.”
Heather and Paul approached Refresh to create more space in a cost-effective way. Working with Refresh, you can feel confident that your renovation will be cost-effective and hassle free. Refresh takes responsibility for the overall project and pays attention to the details. If you’re thinking of renovating, talk to the team at Refresh.
Have a look at our Refresh case study in Auckland A family-friendly house renovation in Pukekohe
This case study by Jason Burgess featured in Issue 006 of Renovate Magazine. Renovate Magazine is an easy to use resource providing fresh inspiration and motivation at every turn of the page.
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